Alfa Romeo makes a serious comeback with the launch of the new Tonale in Ireland in 2023.

The Tonale is Alfa’s new compact SUV and the first new model from the brand to launch here in about five years. It joins the Giulia and Stelvio in the Alfa Romeo range.

However there are more models planned, including full battery electric vehicles. The Tonale is the first Alfa Romeo to debut both mild hybrid and plug-in hybrid technology and so marks the start of the Italian brand’s electrification journey. It will move quickly now, with the brand pledging to go all electric by 2027.

The new Tonale range starts from €49,995 for the petrol mild hybrid and from €55,495 for the plug-in hybrid with all-wheel drive.

I took the new Alfa Romeo Tonale plug-in hybrid for a test drive on Irish roads to find out if the Tonale was worth the wait!

The Alfa Romeo Tonale is on sale in Ireland now
The Alfa Romeo Tonale is on sale in Ireland now

What’s so special about the Alfa Romeo Tonale?

The Tonale adds a little bit of Italian style and flair to the premium compact SUV segment and makes rivals like the BMW X1, the Mercedes-Benz GLA and the Audi Q3 look very conservative indeed. It’s a timely addition to the Alfa range and could be its most competitive model in years, aiming squarely at a sweet spot of the market.

The Tonale brings style and sportiness in abundance. At the front, there’s no mistaking the classic Alfa V-shaped grille and offset number plate. Matrix LED headlights come as standard.

There are two trim levels Ti and Veloce, with the plug-in hybrid models getting an extra Edizione Speciale with 20-inch alloy wheels. 18-inch come as standard on Ti, with 19-inch on Veloce models and gorgeous red brake calipers. But all versions feature a classic Alfa ‘telephone-dial’ style of alloy.

Inside, space in the back is competitive for this class of vehicle with plenty of legroom and headroom available for a couple of children or adults.

Mild hybrid Tonales are best for boot space with 500 litres, similar to rivals. However, if you opt for the plug-in hybrid, it goes down to about 385 litres. Though there is a handy storage compartment for the charging cables underneath the boot floor and a powered tailgate.

But an upmarket car like this requires a smart cabin. So has Alfa delivered?

The Tonale debuts mild hybrid and plug-in hybrid technology for Alfa Romeo
The Tonale debuts mild hybrid and plug-in hybrid technology for Alfa Romeo

Inside the Tonale

Largely, yes. It’s a step up from the Giulia and Stelvio with more plush materials in more places and a slick, modern design for the digital age. There are some harder, scratchier plastics in the centre console and overall, a GLA or X1 do feel more premium.

But it’s all going in the right direction for Alfa at last. Quality counts.

Sitting behind the wheel, the Tonale feels instantly sportier and more driver-focused than rivals. Veloce models get fabulous aluminium paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. Everything is distinctly Alfa. There is a high centre console that enhances the snug, sporty feel.

Infotainment is provided via a 10.25-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and built-in Amazon Alexa voice assistant features. Other standard features include a reversing camera, dual zone climate control, wireless smartphone charging and lots of safety and driver assistance features.

Cloth and leather-effect seats come as standard. Veloce models come with more sophisticated Alcantara and leather-effect seats. There is also the option of full black leather with headrests embossed with the Alfa logo.

The cabin of the new Alfa Romeo Tonale
The cabin of the new Alfa Romeo Tonale

Driving the Tonale Plug-in Hybrid

The Alfa Romeo Tonale plug-in hybrid is the most powerful of the range with 280hp. It’s a big step up in power from the 1.5-litre petrol mild hybrid (160hp).

It also comes with all-wheel drive for more grip and has the ability to be plugged in and driven electric for up to about 69 kilometres on a full battery.

On the road, it is really good fun to drive. It feels sportier than rivals, riding firmer over the tarmac and offering quick, reactive steering.

It will reach 100km/h from a standstill in just 6.2 seconds. Alfa’s classic ‘DNA’ driving mode selector also features: D for Dynamic, N for Natural and A for Advanced Efficiency in the plug-in hybrid Tonale.

The steering is a little bit on the light side in the N mode but D adds the perfect amount of weight to the steering for more enthusiastic driving. It also makes the throttle livelier so you will find yourself using the paddles to change gear. The car certainly promotes more driver involvement than most.

Veloce models have adaptive dampers, which allows for some adjustment depending on your preferences.

Rear seating in the new Tonale
Rear seating in the new Tonale

Still, it’s not the most refined or smoothest hybrid of its kind and it can get quite noisy in the cabin. The suspension is firm but not too firm for Irish roads. The Tonale always redeems itself because it has the edge on sportiness. It is easily one of the most fun to drive plug-in hybrids on sale.

For the best efficiency, the battery needs to be kept topped up, otherwise the Tonale can get quite thirsty. Charging of the Tonale’s battery takes 2.5 hours from a 7 kW wallbox.

Did you like it?

The Alfa Romeo Tonale marks a significant comeback for the Italian car brand in one of the most popular segments of the market. It does it in considerable style of course and the Tonale is an utterly seductive machine for the mid-size SUV segment.

The Tonale has its own distinct style and has closed the gap somewhat to more upmarket rivals on interior quality.

But if you value a fun and involving driving experience from your crossover, then the Tonale wins hands down.

Alfa is back on form with the Tonale, and it marks the start of a new era at the brand that should see even more competitive, electrified models reaching these shores very soon.

Model tested: Alfa Romeo Tonale Veloce PHEV AWD
Price: From 
1.3-litre petrol-electric hybrid
Power: 280hp
Torque: 400Nm
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 6.2 seconds
Motor Tax: 
€140 per year


Written by Caroline Kidd

Founder and Editor of Changing Lanes, Juror for Irish Car of the Year

The Tonale is a fun and stylish premium compact SUV!
The Tonale is a fun and stylish premium compact SUV!